Sleep-Related Movement Disorders

Sleep-related movement disorders are abnormal movements that occur during sleep or while falling asleep. These disorders include everything from bothersome muscle twitches to disorders with serious long-term risks, like bruxism, or nighttime teeth grinding, that can result in permanent damage to the teeth and jaw. Symptoms of sleep-related movement disorders include daytime fatigue, fragmented or broken sleep, and non-refreshing sleep.

All the sleep-related movement disorders

What causes sleep-related movement disorders?

A person’s age, medication use and health history affect their risk of experiencing a sleep-related movement disorder. Some sleep-related movement disorders, like bruxism and rhythmic movement disorder, appear more frequently in young children and usually disappear by age 5 or 6. Another sleep-related movement disorder, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, usually appears after age 50.

Having another sleep disorder increases the risk of experiencing a sleep-related movement disorder. Some medications, including those commonly taken for depression and other mental illness, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and lithium, can contribute to an increased risk for sleep-related movement disorders. High caffeine intake and high levels of stress also increase the risk for these conditions.

Because sleep-related movement disorders are linked to a number of health conditions and medications, they are diagnosed through a combination of a detailed health history and polysomnography, or an overnight sleep study.


Restless Legs Syndrome is the most common sleep-related movement disorder. Some, like bruxism, are experienced primarily by children, while others may be experienced for a short time or while taking a certain medication.

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